Gamblings Statistics for Ireland and Northern Ireland: Who Gambles and How Much?

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Gambling. Once considered a patchy activity reserved only for certain kinds of people, today there are more gambles than ever. Betting shops and casinos (land-based and online) have opened all over the region, which is a clear sign that gambling nowadays is not as dubious as it used to be. 

However, no matter how popular gambling is, not all countries are equally interested in turning to its qualities. For example, two neighbouring countries – Ireland and Northern Ireland have a lot in common, but one big difference – while Ireland has embraced the gambling culture, Northern Ireland is still lagging relying only on certain forms of gambling like lottery or bingo. A fun fact is that online forms of gambling are legal in the country, but land-based forms are absent. 

In this article, we will cover the main gambling stats in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Let’s dive in. 

The Presence of Gambling in Ireland and Northern Ireland 


Gambling is an extremely popular pastime in Ireland, both in its land-based and online variants. And when it comes to online providers, players are eligible to join both local and foreign casinos as these options are completely legal for Irish citizens. 

According to The Independent, the gambling industry in Ireland is estimated to be worth around €10 billion. On a global level, the country ranks third in terms of gambling popularity, just behind Australia and Singapore, the worldwide gambling leaders. This makes it a large and important market for many traditional and internet-based operators with a good gaming offer for players. 

Just remember that Irish gamblers are a tough audience. They are provided with gambling guides and review casino portals that are dissecting every casino provider on the market inside out. A good example of Ireland’s famous online casino source is IrishLuck, which aims to provide players only with trustworthy and reliable first-hand information about the best online casinos on the market to help them make decisions that work best for them. 

In the end, according to the latest Irish figures from 2022, around half of the country’s population engages in some form of gambling, be it a lottery, bingo, scratch cards, slots, table games, roulette or sports betting. Which places it among the most popular activities in the country. 

Northern Ireland

Although Northern Ireland is in the UK and is subject to many UK laws, the country has its own laws on certain issues, gambling being among them. Unlike Ireland or the UK, which are completely open towards all gambling activities, Northern Ireland has strict laws in place. 

Instead of adopting the Gambling Act in 2005, Northern Ireland opted to retain the old laws which restrict numerous gambling activities reducing them to a minimum. Meaning that within the country’s borders, it’s illegal to offer real money prizes for the table and other gambling games of skill. However, private, small and societies lotteries are fully legal when they are played for entertainment purposes.

Many groups attempted to open legal brick-and-mortar casinos in the country to encourage new jobs and boost the economy,  but without success. In the meanwhile, illegal casinos are rife in the country, as BBC reports. 

What is interesting whatsoever, is that while there are no traditional casinos on offer, players are free to indulge in online gambling games, as long as they are located outside the country’s borders. This way, gamblers can enjoy the full range of gaming options on different platforms – slots, table games, roulette, live poker, or more. 

Who Gambles the Most?


Being a gambling country, it’s not so difficult to discover who gambles the most. 

First of all, there is a different prevalence among age groups. According to the Department of Health, the highest prevalence is among adults aged 55 to 64 (72.4%), followed by the ones aged 35 to 44 (70.5%), and those aged 45 to 54 (69.4%). Most of them opt for lottery variants. On the other hand, the younger generation, aged between 18 to 24, gamble directly at bookmakers (20.8%). Interesting thing is that those aged 55 to 64 are the most frequent gamblers. 

As expected, online gambling was most popular among the younger generations aged 25 to 34 years, which is in accordance with their everyday life preferences and higher usage of mobile and smart devices, computers, laptops and so on. 

When it comes to different socio-economic groups, all of them show similar levels of interest in gambling activities, meaning that gambling is interesting to everyone, no matter the social class they find themselves in. 

Northern Ireland

Despite having no land-based casinos in the country, Northern Ireland still has a great prevalence of gambling among the citizens.

In the 2016 study by The Department for Communities, it was found that: 

  • Over two-thirds of respondents (67.2%) admitted they gambled in the previous year, where males of all ages (70.5%) were more likely to gamble than females (64.1%).
  • When it comes to age, those who gamble the most fall into the 35 to 44 age group. Just after them are those between 45 and 54 (73.9%), while the oldest age group, 65+, tend to gamble the least.  
  • Compared to the other parts of the UK, like England, or Wales, in Northern Ireland gambling is at the highest rates, and very similar to the gambling rate found in Scotland, which was around 67%.
  • Most of the respondents, around 86.1% of them, are considered to gamble responsibly, while a small minority of them fall under the riskier gambling group, with men leading the way. 
  • The proportion of people who gamble online increased since 2010 from 6.7% to 15.8%. Given that online casinos are legal for the players and that the industry is evolving rapidly, these numbers must have become a lot higher since 2016. 
  • There were no differences based on the socio-economic group, meaning that people of all social classes in Northern Ireland find gambling interesting. 
  • Gamblers indulge in the four most common gambling types: “national lottery”, “instant win and scratch cards“, “sports and event betting“ and “other lottery, raffle and ballot“. 

Most Prevalent Forms of Gambling


When it comes to what Irish people love to play, believe it or not, the lottery comes as the first pick. Irish players seem to be loyal to this gambling classic. Despite the industry’s trends that promote other online games like slots, poker or table games, being one of the easiest but most exciting games, it’s not hard to imagine why the lottery is still found so attractive.

Live casino games are sitting in second place this time. This kind of gambling was on the rise throughout 2022 and will continue the same trend this year. The reason for their popularity lies in the notion that you don’t have to look tidy and dressed up, you just have to be there, online, and play the game. It’s that simple, and that’s why people love it. They get a real vibe, but with a casual touch from the comfort of their home. 

There is also blackjack, an eternal classic. This is the most popular gambling game worldwide, and Ireland is no exception. The most loved option among players is playing it in the online version against the live dealer. 

Slot games are definitely one of the favourite picks among players, as they come in many variants, vibrant colours and many great bonuses and prizes for the players. 

Last but not the least, sports and horse betting fall into the top 5 gambling options in Ireland. They are more prevalent among the male population than among females, but these numbers are changing rapidly. A fun fact is that 3.4% of males place bets worth over €250 betting on various sports and horse racing. This information says it all. 

Northern Ireland 

As mentioned earlier, there are no legal casinos in Northern Ireland, but Northern Irish gamblers are fully eligible to play in any online casino they like, as long as it is located outside the country’s borders. And they will have no shortage of choices. 

Apart from the locally run lotteries, some of their favourite games are definitely online slots, as they come in many varieties and themes, and with great options for players. 

Their other choices come down to online poker, online blackjack, sports betting, craps, and baccarat. The absolute gambling classics. 

What is new in Northern Ireland is that last year they introduced a new gambling bill, titled the Betting, Gaming, Lotteries and Amusements Bill, which will change several aspects of the old gambling law. The aim is to overhaul gambling regulations, with online gambling to be addressed as one of the first steps. The bill has already received Royal Assent, which means it already has officially come into force. 

Finishing Lines

Gambling is one of the oldest activities among people, and it still remains one of the most popular leisure activities worldwide. This is mainly due to the excitement, competitiveness, unpredictability and fun, with the economic factor being a great add-on. And as we have seen, even with quite different laws regarding gambling, there is the same passion for this kind of fun in Ireland and Northern Ireland.